IT WAS all supposed to be about Castleford Tigers’ redoubtable Andy Lynch making his 500th career appearance but prolific Greg Eden just simply cannot help himself.
Lynch, the 37-year-old prop who also announced on the eve of his milestone game he will retire at the end of this season, did what he has done ever since his 1999 debut; grafted tirelessly and worked his socks off to allow his more eye-catching colleagues to shine.
And Eden, yet again, did just that, stealing the headlines with five tries as the effervescent Super League leaders opened up a six-point lead at the top.
His latest haul was a club game record in the summer era and joint-best in their history – five others including John Joyner, St John Ellis and Ian French have done the same – while, remarkably, it was his fifth hat-trick in his last six outings.
The 26-year-old now has 33 tries in 19 games this term, 18 of which have, incredibly, come in those previous six matches alone.
It was Castleford’s eighth successive win ahead of a mouthwatering Challenge Cup quarter-final at holders Hull FC next Sunday, but the game was essentially over for struggling Warrington with only a quarter of it gone following a horribly expensive sin-binning of their captain Chris Hill. The prop was yellow carded – perhaps harshly – for a late challenge on his England colleague Luke Gale in the 11th minute. Warrington trailed just 4-0 at that point, Eden having sneaked in front of Kevin Penny to take Gale’s dropping kick, but, by the time Hill returned, they were 20-0 behind.
Eden got his second after a wonderfully worked move involving Gale and Zak Hardaker saw Michael Shenton ease into space.
Gale slotted the first of his four goals and, when Warrington’s teenage debutant full-back Will Dagger over-hit his re-start, they were in again, Mike McMeeken’s soft hands sending Greg Minkin over for his 17th of the season.
England second-row McMeeken added his own when Nathan Massey bumped off defenders and surged up the middle for Gale to provide the link.
Hill returned to the field to witness irreparable damage although, clearly, they improved with him back on and, with their first real attack of note in the 31st minute, responded with Tom Lineham’s 100th career try that Declan Patton improved.
They also thought Grant Millington – Castleford’s Australian forward making his 200th career appearance – should have been carded, too, for an off-the-ball challenge on Dagger although that looked more accidental.
Warrington’s respite was only brief; Benny Roberts skipped away to kick on for Hardaker and, though the England full-back was denied, second-row Jesse Sene-Lefao showed great awareness and patience to send out a long pass to furnish Eden his treble for 26-6 at half-time.
He added his fourth and fifth early in the second period, the latter after another sublime assist from Shenton, before Castleford lost some of their shine during a scrappy final quarter. Joe Westerman crossed for Warrington and, even with Lineham in the sin-bin for a professional foul on Minikin, Jack Hughes did, too, in the 72nd minute, Castleford having lost prop Junior Moors to a worrying injury in the second period.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Monaghan, Minikin, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Lynch, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Moors, Holmes, Foster.
Warrington Wolves: Dagger; Penny, Ratchford, Blythe, Lineham; Patton, Westerman; Hill, Clark, Sims, Julien, Hughes. Cooper. Substitutes: Dwyer, King, Savelio, Philibin.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).